Eagles can tackle needs in draft

Posted: January 15, 2014

AS THE Eagles watched the NFL playoff games over the weekend, there was not much to learn - other than that the better team advanced in all four cases, which means the goal is to get better, which is obvious enough. Stylistically, though, you have young quarterbacks and old quarterbacks, running quarterbacks and pocket passers, good defenses and OK defenses. There is no obvious pattern here, or formula.

So, get better. Some of that has to come internally - specifically with the development of quarterback Nick Foles. You get the sense that there might be a strategic acquisition or two in free agency, but you also get the sense that the Eagles have been so chastened by the way their free-agency lollapalooza exploded on them in 2011 that they're never going to try that again. Fair enough.

All of which leaves the draft, and this observation:

As long as they don't take a quarterback or a running back with their first pick, they are picking in an area of need.

Let's take care of the quarterback and running-back caveats first. Even if you don't love Foles, or think he is merely a product of Chip Kelly's offensive system, there is no reason to take a quarterback this year - not unless there is somebody Kelly absolutely loves and is gettable at the 22nd pick, which is not likely. The economics of the game, where Foles makes low money for one more season - the Eagles could not renegotiate his deal if they wanted to, thanks to the splendid work done by the NFL Players Association in the last collective bargaining agreement - just makes it an easy decision.

As for running back, there are two reasons why the Eagles don't want to take one in the first round: 1) LeSean McCoy, and 2) the fact that running back remains the most precarious position in the game from a health standpoint. It just isn't worth the risk, especially considering McCoy's current level of play.

But other than that, have at it.

Offensive line? It is an excellent group but not a particularly young group, and for an NFL team, replenishing there is like drinking water. You need to do it to keep living.

Tight end? Admittedly a lower priority, but in this sport, in 2014 and beyond, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the versatility that the modern tight end brings to your offense. Even a year after taking Zach Ertz, they shouldn't hesitate.

Wide receiver? Yes, please. The Eagles need more size and more speed at that position. A big, fast wideout who complements DeSean Jackson (small and fast) and Riley Cooper (big and not as fast) will open up this offense to something close to its full potential; you can't reach full potential without a running quarterback, but that's OK. I'm not sure Jeremy Maclin, coming off knee surgery, is that guy - and the Eagles cannot take the risk. More outside speed will also serve as pouting insurance, if Jackson's contract sends him into the same funk as a couple of years ago.

Defensive line? The Eagles still only have one lineman who really fits the classic 3-4 profile - Fletcher Cox. They don't have the really big nose tackle and they don't have the big defensive end on the other side. They have to decide how important that classic profile is, and if they feel they are making compromises here, and how long they want to make those compromises, and where.

Linebacker? This is their top need - a pass-rushing weapon of an outside linebacker, somebody that the other team worries about on every play. Trent Cole isn't that player. An elite pass rusher would make everybody behind him and next to him a better player. A consistent pass rush should remain this defense's top priority.

Safety? Yes. Not much more needs to be said.

Cornerback? Yes. They were so thin at the position this season that they didn't really have a dime defense. It is just one of the things defensive coordinator Bill Davis had to scheme around on a weekly basis.

So that's it. There is almost no reason for the Eagles to go away from their draft board because the best available player will almost certainly fill a need as well.


On Twitter: @theidlerich

Blog: philly.com/DNL

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